NBA / Sep 13, 2010 / 2:00 pm

Crown ‘em: The Kings will make a playoff push in 2011

Tyreke Evans (photo. Nicky Woo)

Geoff Petrie, former two-time NBA Executive of the Year (’99, ’01), was the guy who put the Sacramento Kings on the map.

After drafting sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic in ’96 and flashy point guard Jason Williams out of Florida in ’98 — behind the likes of Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter — the Kings began the rise to championship contention. The team made other moves as well to help boost the roster: signing Vlade Divac in free agency and trading away Mitch Richmond for Chris Webber. With the Kings running a Princeton-style offense led by creative playmakers Webber, Williams and Divac, they turned into the most exciting team in basketball, but their team defense seemed to disappear at inopportune times, and some of the players were criticized — Williams for his flash-over-substance style of play, and Webber for his failure to step up against the toughest competition.

After back-to-back first-round playoff loses to the Jazz and Lakers, the Kings came back and beat the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2001 playoffs before being swept by the Lakers. After that, the Kings started making moves. Williams was traded to the Grizzlies for Mike Bibby in hopes of having a less turnover-prone point guard that could slow the pace. The next year the Kings made it to the Western Conference Finals, but lost to the Lakers in seven games. Things didn’t get any better after Webber was injured, which led to Stajokovic being traded and eventually Bibby being shipped to the Dirty South while the fans watched their team fall apart.

Fast-forward to the fourth pick of 2009 NBA Draft, where the Kings selected point guard Tyreke Evans. After averaging 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds — joining Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James as the only rookies to average at least 20, five and five — Evans was named Rookie of the Year. Evans is more of a scorer than a distributor, but he has the potential to be a great player in this League. He’s already stated in a Yahoo! interview that he’s been working on his jumper in the offseason:

“Me and my friends would talk about it at the house, how I’d miss one (outside shot during Kings games in his rookie season) and then the next play they already knew I’d be going for a layup or kick it out or something like that,” Evans said. “But the guys who play this game at the top in this League — guys like ‘Melo and LeBron — they shoot with confidence. That’s just how I’ve got to think. It’s not being selfish. It’s being aggressive.”

But what does this mean for the Kings’ future? Luckily for Evans, he will have some strong bodies working in the post along with shooters on the perimeter. The Kings got better defensively this summer by drafting Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins, who dominated in the Vegas Summer League with averages of 14.5 points and 9.8 rebounds. The only knocks on Cousins are his alleged character issues, which the Kings addressed by hiring his former high school coach, Otis Hughley, as an assistant coach/overseer for Cousins.

If Cousins matures and avoids trouble, the Kings have the makings of a potential contender. It typically takes a great big man and a great perimeter player to contend in the NBA; Cousins and Evans fit the bill. Athletic shot-blocker Samuel Dalembert could be a nice complement to Cousins inside, and the Kings also drafted 7-foot Hassan Whiteside, who led the NCAA’s Division 1 in blocks as a freshman.

But if there’s anyone that’s going to help Tyreke right away it’s Carl Landry (16.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg). Landry brings his scrappy-toughness to Sacramento; he bangs in the paint, grabs boards, and has a nice outside shot as well. It’s not far off possibility for the Kings to grab an 8th seed out West, especially if injuries start to pile up on teams such as the Trail Blazers, Hornets, Jazz, Mavericks and Spurs — which most likely will happen.

Sacramento has a young, solid roster, but their future all depends on whether or not they can mature as a team, play as a team and defend as a team. In the talented Western Conference, the Kings are going to have to scrap for every game in hopes of placing a crown above Sacramento.

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  • atticusmitch

    @Andrew Macaluso
    see more conservative:
    “It’s not far off possibility for the Kings to grab an 8th seed out West, especially if injuries start to pile up on teams such as the Trail Blazers, Hornets, Jazz, Mavericks and Spurs — which most likely will happen.”

    Now I wont hate on you cause you said its a “possibility”. Even though there is no way its going to happen. Not a bad article though.

    Evans is sick, and Cousins is a beast. Plus role players like Greene and Omri make them a fun team to watch. I just dont think fun leads to Ws. But they should be better this season.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Andrew Macaluso

    @atticusmitch

    Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/Chris_Barrio C Money

    Remember in he movie Forest Gump when hes speaking to the crowed and they arnt hearing him when hes speaking due to someone pulling the mic cord in Washington DC???
    Ok when he finishes and they finally get the mic back in he says…. “AND THATS ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAAAT!”

    thats how i feel about the kings making the playoffs…

    WOMP WOMP

  • atticusmitch

    Much love dude, hope you get a fatty offer from Dime to work there

  • i am a witness

    “Things didn’t get any better after Webber was injured, which led to Stajokovic being traded to New Orleans and eventually Bibby being shipped to the Dirty South while the fans watched their team fall apart.

    I think peja was traded to the pacers for like half a season and then signed with the hornets as a free agent bro…….

    Nice article though

  • JAY

    ^^^^ and by fatty… he mean a “fatty”.

    Taaaaa-dow.

  • Mr. TKO

    I’m liking Tyreke and DMC as a duo. I know they’ll definitely be my team of choice during 2k11 (playing through the season) and I can potentially see them making a lil bit of noise to get things percolating this season.

  • atticusmitch

    oohhh dang

  • yoda

    nice one Andrew. getting better and better every day. keep up with good work.
    as far as Kings, they can sneak in only over hornets. other teams showed they can play even with injuries. but on other hand, kings will have competition for that eight seed in LAC. with some luck, other LA team can make it push for final play off spot

  • Joe’s Momma

    I don’t know if playoffs is in reach just yet. They might have to win 50 games to get the #8 seed if the past few years in the West in any indication. I don’t see this team winning 50 games. I see them barely breaking 40 if Cousin’s can keep his head on straight.

    Evans is a stud, I was sleeping on him last year and he just blew up in my face.

    I want to see Caspi expand his game a little. He played at a fast pace last year and I would like to see this dude keep it up for the entire season. Get Cisco bad healthy and that wing position is sured on IMO. Jason Thompson is good, Landry impreses me more everytime I see him in the post.

    I like their makeup, I just don’t know if playoffs will be there. I expect GS to be better, Houston of course. A lot of things gotta go right. Dalembert should make their team a little better defensively, but they have holes still.

  • north

    why does Jason Thompson get no love? Most fans would kill to get a guy like that on their squad. He doesn’t even get a tag in your article at all… to me that’s wrong.

  • atticusmitch

    @yoda

    Agreed with LAC pushing for a playoff spot. West is gonna be tight again this season.

  • atticusmitch

    @yoda

    Agreed with LAC pushing for a playoff spot. West is gonna be tight again this season.

  • JBaller

    I think that they will be a much improved team this year and I love watching Ty wreak havoc in the lane, but I think it’s a stretch to say they are bound for the post season. Also, talking about the likelihood of injuries on that list of teams is just begging for some bad karma! You never know who’s going to end up on the floor grabbing his knee!

  • JBaller

    It could be you…

  • http://www.facebook.com/dworlds David Brandon

    good article, andrew. i’d say one of the best so far. and thats not even being a biased fan haha i’ve been telling ppl they can get into the 8th seed and just build from there. they’re gonna have to scrap it out tho…the west is too strong.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Andrew Macaluso

    @ iamawitness

    You’re right, my apologies man. I completely forgot that they sent him to Indiana first.

  • Sacto_J

    Thanks for the Nor Cal love, Andrew, its nice to see the Kings have some relevancy once again. There are 2 things going against your title statement, however. The 1st is that (as stated above,) its probably going to take around 50 wins to get into the playoffs in the West this year, and that might be a stretch considering the talent level of perennial teams such as the Spurs, Blazers, and the potential of teams such as the Hornets and this year’s hot sleeper pic the LAC (and I’m purposefully leaving GSW off the list. Purposefully.)
    The other thing about this team is that the PF / C logjam is going to lend itself to a certain amount of inconsistency from some of the players. I don’t think Dalembert is going to be too happy coming to a sub .500 team and only getting 20 mpg, which could lead to chemistry and floor time production issues. And he won’t be alone. DMC, Landry, and Thompson could all fall into this trap should they not receive the playing time they feel they deserve.
    Should the team come together and gel quickly, then there is definitely a chance at pushing for the playoffs, its just hard to fathom with so many variables at play this season. They’ll definitely be worth watching once again, which is a huge step up. The rest is just icing on the cake at this point….

  • SJ

    He was good on our Pacers… local radio even got together spin off of ‘Hey Ya’ as ‘Pe-ja’… kinda gay but Pacers needed everything they could get to draw attention from fans… positive attention.

    Regarding the Kings, they have a strong group of talented players, but they won’t be shit unless they mesh well. I think they’ll do well, probably not playoffs next year though.

  • Heckler

    Sacto in the 2011 playoffs?

    thats about as likely as Macaluso writing a decent piece on this site.

  • sh!tfaced

    Hmmm… nice one… but why do I keep getting the same feeling as Slam’s Nets are champs by 2001 cover… hahaha

  • Michorizo

    I have been saying it for years…Tyreke is sick… and Cousins could be ROY

  • derik

    Some teams only look good on paper…. so far, Kings is one of those teams

  • jawjack

    Playoffs, not yet. Nasty big rotation, for sure. Other teams will be seeing Sammy D, JT, Landry, Whiteside (now at 250) and DMC. This bunch looks more like an offensive front line and they will have plenty of fouls to give at the 4 & 5. Evans is a beast in the back court as well. I do not know how this will translate to wins but I do know that other teams will NOT be looking forward to playing the Kings, especially in April.

  • Derek

    I don’t see why so many people doubt the Kings will make the Playoffs this season. I think It’s pretty damn possible if the following goes right:
    1. Tyreke Evans steps up his game even more. Evans is unstoppable at penetrating to the rim and is looking like a future superstar. I’m hearing he’s working hard on his jumpshot this offseason, and if he’s able to knock down at least a mediocre percentage of his jumpshots, look out…
    2. Cousins immediately becomes a force. If he plays solid defense right off the bat and is able to consistently score 10-15ppg, while getting some boards, he’ll be a major factor.
    3. Finally, the Kings have the potential of being one of the best defensive teams in the league, and if they play good team defense right away, I see them making the PO’s this season

    Kings biggest weakness last few seasons has been awful defense and rebounding, along with having barely any size. Now, however, Petrie addressed those issues flawlessly with Dalembert, Cousins, and Whiteside, and Kings are now a match-up NIGHTMARE for many teams with their size.

    Gotta also mention how Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Donte Greene, Omri Casspi are looking like VERY solid young pieces. I can see the Kings being the “Thunder” of last season and making the playoffs, and even if they don’t, I guarantee they make the POs in a couple years and start contending.

    I’ve never been a fan of Sac kings but their young athletic squad makes me want to root for them.

    I see a bright future

  • K Dizzle

    “It’s not far off possibility for the Kings to grab an 8th seed out West, especially if injuries start to pile up on teams such as the Trail Blazers, Hornets, Jazz, Mavericks and Spurs — which most likely will happen.”

    For real, Sac-Town should just try to finish above the Clips, Wolves and Warriors, cuz it would take crazy injuries for them to sneak in…

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    hahhahahahahahahiaodhaiksd fl;ajs fklajsdfjasldfkjal;fjasklfjdkljfk jfasfjoaisfjo;iahjfoiadfjof!!!!!!!$%Q$%$%@#~~~!!!!!

    Oh wait, I thought this was Def Comedy Jam. No fluckin way in hell they make the playoffs. Even if Stern made a realignment and put them in the East they’d still fail to make the playoffs. Maybe you guys don’t realize just how bad this team is/was. Sammy D and Cousins don’t make them any better. They don’t know how to use Landry or Thompson. Greene and Cass both want 30mpg.

    Tyreke is the only legit threat and he’ll get them to 30-35 wins on his own talent. Other than that, this year they are headed for another high lotto pick

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    Just saw that Tenn Titans RB Chris Johnson was runnig 22MPH in full pads. That’s insane.

    who in the NBA could pull this off? My guess is Lebron James or Darren Collinson.

  • Qrentis

    I think they have a chance..

    Tyreke will soon be known as the best ball handler in the nba and he’s 6’6 230 with like an 7 foot something wing span.. unguardable.. that nigga is a beast and has the talent to be a top 5 player real soon..

    With that bein said he will need good role players and an 2nd option that’s gonna ball with him..
    And shid all I can say is we will see…

    I’m out

  • cocksauce

    Kings will get Melo, put bank on it.

  • Cameron

    “Evans is more of a scorer than a distributor” You do realize he averaged nearly 6 asst right? And woulda had 2 or 3 more if his teammates made some wide open shots! His defense is sick as well. All he’s really missing is a consistent jumper. Otherwise, good article!